USTA National Winter Championships Recap
Under the guidance of Coach Newman and Coach Notis, 17 players represented ATA at the USTA National Winter Championships in Phoenix (Boys and Girls 16’s&18’s) and Tuscon (Boys and Girls 12’s&14’s).
Boys 12’s – James Cockrell
Girls 12’s – Sasha Malysheva, Caroline Wernli
Boys 14’s – Juan Abboud, Harrison Chiu
Girls 14’s – Anushka Dania, Megha Dania
Boys 16’s – Jesse Wikso
Girls 16’s – Callie Creath, Kristin Kerrigan
Boys 18’s – Chase Bartlett, Jake Berber, Payton Holden, Erik Kerrigan, Alejandro Rodriguez
Girls 18’s –Hunter Bleser, Abigail Chiu
Several ATA seniors distinguished themselves in the 18’s draw of Winter Nationals. Payton Holden rebounded from a first-round singles loss to win 5 matches in the consolation draw and finish in the Top 24. Hunter Bleser defeated a #17 seed in her first-round singles match whom she lost to a few months ago. Perhaps more importantly, the Head Coach of University of Virginia (where Hunter will be attending this fall) told Coach Newman that he was excited about the improvement Hunter has made in her game since the summer. Erik Kerrigan also advanced himself with his future coaches at the University of Chicago by upsetting the #3 seeds in doubles with his partner Eric Morris. Another senior, Jake Berber, also stepped up and reestablished himself as a national level player by winning 2 singles matches in the backdraw.
Juniors Abigail Chiu and Alejandro Rodriguez advanced their recruiting status with college coaches from some of the most academically elite Division I schools in the country. Abigail won 2 matches in the main draw of singles and cemented her reputation as one of the premier doubles players in the country by reaching the quarterfinals of doubles. According to Coach Newman, “Abigail advanced herself with coaches from Harvard, Columbia, Dartmouth, Brown and Princeton by competing with a great attitude and showcasing an excellent game style.” During the tournament, Coach Newman had multiple conversations on behalf of Abigail with the Head and Assistant Coaches from Harvard, the Dartmouth Head Coach and the Assistant Coaches from Columbia and Brown. Despite being the last player accepted into the 18’s draw after working his way up the alternate list, Alejandro grinded his way to 3 singles victories in the backdraw, including a win over a #17 seed. According to Coach Newman, “Alejandro helped himself through his outstanding fight and hustle with the Head Coaches from Columbia, Harvard and Northwestern who watched his matches.” Coach Newman made time to have multiple conversations on behalf of Alejandro with each of the coaches from these elite universities.
In addition, Coach Newman spoke to many other college coaches about underclassmen such as Jesse Wikso, Kristin Kerrigan and Callie Creath to lay the groundwork so these coaches know our players before it’s time to be recruited. For example, Coach Newman has already started the college process for 9th grade Blue Chip recruit Jesse Wikso who competed evenly with the #1 seed in the second round before losing 3-6, 4-6 and then went on to win 2 matches in the backdraw. While Coach Newman is at major national tournaments, he is also talking to college coaches about players who are not at the tournament but who might be a good fit for their school down the line. Through Coach Newman’s long-term approach of developing relationships with college coaches, he is able to open doors and facilitate the college process for ATA players aspiring to compete beyond high school.
In the 14’s draw, Anushka Dania won 3 matches in the consolation bracket after losing her first-round match. Coach Notis remarked on “Anushka’s amazing defensive skills, superior ability to anticipate and intelligent use of variety to keep her opponents off balance.” Harrison Chiu also rebounded from losing his 1st round singles match (to one of the top players in the country) to win 2 matches in the consolation bracket. But it was Caroline Wernli who shined the brightest in Tuscon in the 12’s draw. Caroline finished in the Top 12 in singles and capped her outstanding tournament by earning a SILVER BALL in doubles with her partner Zoe Hammond from Oklahoma. Coach Notis was blown away by the fact that “Caroline and Zoe played an aggressive brand of doubles finishing many points at the net.” Although Caroline lost a three-hour battle in the round of 16 in singles, Coach Notis was impressed with Caroline’s “unmatched tenacity, consistency, excellent use of the entire court and fighting spirit.” On another promising note, 11-year-old Sasha Malysheva, in her first Level 1 National Championship, demonstrated that she will become a huge threat at the national level in years to come. After watching Sasha begin the tournament by winning her 1st round singles match against a girl she had lost to six months ago, Coach Notis was impressed with Sasha’s “poise and ability to dictate with her aggressive play.” The future is indeed bright for ATA with young players like Caroline and Sasha leading the charge!